BAGUIO CITY — Besides the onerous agreement that governs the financial loan for the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project in Pinukpuk, Kalinga province, a group in the Cordillera is also raising the violation of indigenous people (IPs) rights committed by the project proponents.

“The free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of the affected IPs was not sought before the loan was signed, neither was it given importance prior to the construction activities for the project,” said Sarah Dekdeken, spokesperson of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA).

She asserted that contents of the loan agreement and details of the project should have been fully disclosed to the affected IPs for them to have an informed consent. She added that the Filipino people, who will be paying the loan should be given an opportunity to scrutinize the official copy of the document signed with China.

“The essence of the FPIC process is for indigenous communities to be fully informed and to freely give consent or non-consent prior to the implementation of projects in our ancestral lands,” Dekdeken said.

The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) director in Kalinga province, Atty. Catherine Gayagay-Apaling, said her office did not issue any certificate of precondition for the project.

She also told Nordis that the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) Region 2 started earth-moving activities in June 2018 while the FPIC process is still on going.

PFIC is principle guaranteed and protected under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is a process of building consensus among the members of the indigenous community in accordance with their customary laws and practices that is free from any external manipulation, interference and coercion. It requires the full disclosure of the intent and scope of the project in a manner that they easily understand.

Under Section 6.B of NCIP Administrative Order No. 1, series of 2006, FPIC process is a must before any project feasibility study is undertaken or project can commence in indigenous peoples land. The certificate of precondition is issued only after the proper FPIC was obtained from the concerned IP group.

Dekdeken also assailed the government for interfering and undermining the FPIC process by directly talking with the lot owners instead of consulting the affected communities as a tribe or ancestral land owners.

“This is a classic example of employing divide and rule, to sow misunderstanding, to go around the law and put the blame to the individuals who were coaxed agreeing with the proponents if something goes wrong,” she said.

Based on NCIP guidelines, FPIC should be obtained through a domain-wide participation. However, Apaling said other villages waived their participation since they are too far from the project site, leaving Pinococ and Kattabogan to decide on the matter.

According to her, NIA went straight to the affected lot owners to negotiate and clinched a Memorandum of Agreement that outlined the compensation for the lot owners.

“We told affected IPs during community dialogues not to allow any construction activity not even access road until the FPIC process is finished but the owners already allowed the construction,” she said.

The projects affects two ancestral domains: Pinukpuk Ancestral Domain and Magaogao Ancestral Domain.

NIA Region 2 applied for a certificate of precondition in September 2014 and the FPIC process started in March 2017 according to the FPIC status report of NCIP Kalinga dated March 18 , 2019 submitted to the regional office.

However, FPIC process was delayed because NIA failed to give NCIP a copy of the MOA they signed with affected lot owners explained Apaling

The P4.37 Billion CRPIP is the first flagship infrastructure project to be financed by China under the Duterte administration. It is funded by a soft loan from the China Exim Bank and constructed by China CAMC Engineering Company, Ltd. The project aims to irrigate 7,530 hectares in Tuao and Piat towns of Cagayan and 1,170 ha in Pinukpuk, Kalinga. # nordis.net

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